Lion's Mane

Lion's Mane mushroom or Hericium Erinaceus is definitely a rising star among natural treatments for some of the world's most difficult health problems.

This mushroom has been highly prized in Chinese tradition, where it was eaten exclusively by the Emperors.

Lion's Mane's medical benefits were already well known to the Chinese doctors as a curative for problems of the digestive tract such as stomach and duodenal ulcers, as well as for cancers of the esophagus, stomach and duodenum.

"Lion's Mane mushroom mycelium is nature's nutrients for your neurons."

Known as Lion's Mane due to its long cascading tendrils, legends has it that those who consumed lion's mane mushroom would have "nerves of steel and the memory of a lion".

Recent studies confirm support of the digestive system, but more promising is lion's mane mushroom's ability to stimulate synthesis of nerve growth factor (NGF), which may help inhibit brain dysfunction associated with Alzheimer's disease and possibly other degenerative neurological diseases related to aging and autoimmunity.

Bioactivities of lion's mane medicinal mushrooms

  • 1. Lion's Mane mushroom anti-alzheimer's disease effects: Stimulating activity of the synthesis of nerve growth factor (NGF). prevention and amelioration of senile dementia.

  • 2. Lion's Mane mushroom anti-tumor effects: Immune enhancement, cytotoxic effect.

  • 3. Lion's Mane mushroom digestive tonic effects: Treating stomach and duodenal ulcer, and chronic atrophic gastritis, improving indigestion.

Lion's mane has also been the subject of more and more medical studies in the past decade. They appear to have nerve regenerating properties, stimulating nerve growth and aiding those with cognitive impairments. Yesterday's funny looking mushroom may be part of tomorrow's dementia treatment.

Traditional Chinese Medicine has long prescribed it for stomach problems and cancer of the digestive organs. Modern research suggests that these mushrooms also have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, as well as supporting the immune system against certain types of cancers.

Yet the most exciting discovery about this mushroom is its ability to possibly heal nerve tissues. It contains molecules known as hericenones and erinacines, two compounds suspected to stimulate nerve growth factor (NGF).

NGF is a protein necessary for nerve cells that send information to the brain to function properly. Lack of NGF is considered a cause of certain neurological problems such as Alzheimer's and dementia.

Unfortunately, this protein can't pass through the blood-brain barrier. So treating dementia by injecting NGF into the body isn't going to work.

This is where lion's mane comes in! Due to their low molecular weight, the nerve regenerating compounds in this mushroom do pass the blood-brain barrier. This allows them to stimulate and repair nerve cells in the brain itself, increasing cognitive function.

Healing neurons and myelin(the sheath surrounding nerves) may be useful in treating:

  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer's
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Senility
  • Parkinson's Disease
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Other Neurological Conditions

In addition, lion's mane is said to strengthen the immune system, stimulate digestion, and protect against cancer.

Benefits of Lion's Mane

So far, research on the health effects of lion's mane is fairly limited. However, findings from animal-based research, test-tube studies, and small clinical trials indicate that lion's mane may offer certain health benefits. Here's a look at some key study findings

Lion's Mane and Brain Function

Lion's mane may benefit older adults with mild cognitive impairment, according to a small study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2009. For the study, researchers assigned 30 older adults with mild cognitive impairment to take either lion's mane extract or a placebo every day for 16 weeks. In cognitive tests given at weeks eight, 12, and 16 of the study, members of the lion's mane group showed significantly greater improvements compared to members of the placebo group.

In a more recent study (published in Biomedical Research in 2011), scientists examined the effects of lion's mane on brain function in mice. Results revealed that lion's mane helped protect against memory problems caused by buildup of amyloid beta (a substance that forms the brain plaques associated with Alzheimer's disease).

Lion's Mane and Depression

Lion's mane may help alleviate depression and anxiety, suggests a small study published in Biomedical Research in 2010. For the study, 30 menopausal women consumed cookies containing either lion's mane or a placebo every day for four weeks. Analyzing study findings, researchers observed that members of the lion's mane group were less irritable and anxious and had less difficulty concentrating than members of the placebo group.

The most active ingredient in Hericium erinaceus is blurry, but the polysaccharides and leanolic Acid extracted from Hericium erinaceus have proved to be effective in the treatment of depression. Strengthening of the Myelin Sheath is believed to “contain and strengthen” the impulses passing through the Neuron – leading to improvement in symptoms of depression.

Lion's Mane and Cancer

Preliminary research suggests that lion's mane shows promise in protection against cancer. For instance, in a 2011 study from Food & Function, tests on human cells revealed that lion's mane may help knock out leukemia cells.

In addition, a 2011 study from the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that lion's mane extract helped reduce the size of cancerous colon tumors in mice. The study's findings suggest that lion's mane may help fight off colon cancer, in part by increasing activity in certain cells involved in the immune response. However, it's too soon to tell whether lion's mane can help prevent colon cancer in humans.

Lion's Mane Mushroom on Dementia, Alzheimer’s and parkinson’s - Nerve Growth Factor(NGF)

Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) A protein molecule that was discovered by Rita Levi-Montalcini and isolated by Stanley Cohen, for which they jointly recieved the 1986 Nobel Prize for Medicine. They play an essential role in the survival of several nerve cell populations in the peripheral and central nervous system

The Lion’s Mane mushroom has the remarkable activity of stimulating the synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). A lack of NGF is considered one of the major causes of Alzheimer's disease. - Dr. Hirokazu Kawagishi of Shizoka University Japan

Clinical Study of Lion's Mane Mushroom on Dementia Patients from Japan

Nerve growth factor (NGF) is closely related to Alzheimer's dementia, and studies have suggested that the disease may be prevented or its symptoms may be improved when NGF is given into the brain directly. However, since NGF is a protein it usually cannot pass through the blood-brain barrier. Recently, researchers have targeted on the substances that could pass through the blood-brain barrier and induce NGF synthesis in the brain. Some compounds with lower molecular weight have been found to have such bioactivity.

Among these bioactive compounds, hericenones and erinacines, which were isolated from an edible mushroom called as Lion's Mane (Hericium erinaceus), showed remarkable activity of stimulating the synthesis of NGF. They could be developed as a dietary supplement or medicine to be used for treating Alzheimer's dementia

Dr. Hirokazu Kawagishi of Shizoka University Japan, a recognized authority on Lion's Mane for the past 15 years, showed the mushroom to have the remarkable activity of stimulating the synthesis of Nerve Growth Factor (NGF). A lack of NGF is considered one of the major causes of Alzheimer's disease.

Dr. Mark Tuszynski of University of California, San Diego explains that NGF is the prototype of the neurotrophion family of polypeptides. They play an essential role in the differentiation and survival of several nerve cell populations in the peripheral and central nervous system.

NGF as a protein, however, cannot pass through the blood-brain barrier, the semi-permeable membrane between the blood and brain, which allows only small, lipid soluble molecules to pass through it. NGF is too large to permeate the membrane; so in a brain with diminishing amounts of NGF, how do we maintain an adequate amount to support healthy neuron repair and renewal?

Dr. Kawagishi and his team isolated two types of molecules within Lion's Mane which both stimulate NGF production and also crucially, pass unhindered through the blood-brain barrier.

The first of these substances is found in the fruiting body (the part of the mushroom which sprouts out of the ground or tree stump) and are called hericenones. Hericenones stimulate the brain to produce more NGF.

An even more powerfully effective group of substances called erinacines were found in the mycelia (the root system) of Lion's Mane. Small enough to pass through the blood-brain barrier, erinacines work from within the brain to promote NGF production, which in turn helps make more neurons.

This process results in alleviating symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and even Parkinson's disease. This is one of the most significant discoveries of the last 50 years and is why the Nobel Prize was awarded for its discovery.

As Paul Stamets, one of the world's leading mycologists and author of several reference works on medical mushrooms, puts it, "Lion's Mane mushroom mycelium is nature's nutrients for your neurons."

The erinacines, by promoting NGF production throughout the body, also help to alleviate symptoms of peripheral neurological dysfunction. Dr. Will Boggs reports in Neurology magazine that NGF significantly improves the pain symptoms of HIV-infected patients with sensory neuropathy. Sensory neuropathy affects as much as 35% of all AIDS patients.

Dr. Giovanni Schifitto from the University of Rochester, New York studied the safety and effectiveness of human NGF for HIV-associated distal sensory polyneuropathy in 200 affected patients. Their symptoms were significantly alleviated with the administration of the NGF. As the numbers of sufferers needing some type of NGF replacement therapy climbs ever higher, and with no cure in sight from modern medicine, many people are starting to turn to Lion's Mane mushroom as a real way to slow down and reverse the symptoms of these devastating diseases.

The breakdown in healthy neurological function can be prevented by adding Lion's Mane mushroom to the diet.

A national trend to add Lion's Mane to our daily supplemental requirements would go a long way to improve the quality and length of life. The fact that one food source is able to provide the body with the nutrients it needs to stimulate nerve cell regeneration, along with the immune-enhancing properties of beta glucans in healing the digestive tract of ulcers and cancers, is nothing short of remarkable.

The more we know about the intricate details of this wonder food, the more we begin to understand the prized value it held among the royal palaces of the Orient.

To answer this question, a study was done in a rehabilitative hospital in the Gunma prefecture in Japan, with 50 patients in an experimental group and 50 patients used as a control. (23) All patients were elderly and suffered from cerebrovascular disease, degenerative orthopedic disease, Parkinson's disease, spinocerebellar degeneration, diabetic neuropathy, spinal cord injury, or disuse syndrome. Seven of the patients in the experimental group suffered from different types of dementia.

The patients in this group received 5 g of dried Lion's Mane mushroom per day in their soup for a 6-month period. All patients were evaluated before and after the treatment period for their Functional Independence Measure (FIM), (24), (25) which is a measure of independence in physical capabilities (eating, dressing, walking, etc.) and in perceptual capacities (understanding, communication, memory, etc.).

The results of this preliminary study show that after six months of taking Lion's Mane mushroom, six out of seven dementia patients demonstrated improvements in their perceptual capacities, and all seven had improvements in their overall FIM score (see Figures 3 and 4). A more extensive clinical study is currently underway to further investigate the findings from this small sample.

Lion’s Mane Mushroom for Peptic Ulcer and Duodenal Ulcer

Its beta glucan polysaccharides, along with polypeptides and fatty acids have a lot to do with these curative effects. Clinical studies have shown that these polysaccharides, along with adenosine and oleanolic acids, stimulate induction of interferons and modulation of the immune system, boosting the white blood cell count to help the healing process.

These substances also enhance the function of the gastric mucus barrier, accelerate the healing of ulcers, and exhibit anti-inflammatory effects.

Lion's Mane has also been shown to help regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels.

It is completely safe, showing no signs of toxicity or side effects in any scientific research.

Lion’s Mane and Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Lion’s Mane and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) New insights into mechanisms controlling the formation of myelin - the white matter that coats all nerves -- could help lead to treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) and other myelin-related diseases and injury.

- University of Southern California (USC) and the Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montreal

Lion’s Mane and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Myelin plays an important role in the overall health and function of the nervous system. MS and other diseases or injuries that damage myelin result in serious problems including uncoordinated movements, neuropathic pain and paralysis.

- University of Southern California (USC) and the Institut de Recherches Cliniques de Montreal

Lion’s Mane and The Myelin Sheath

Lion’s Mane and The Myelin Sheath Recently it was shown that extract from mushroom Hericium erinaceus had activating action on the nerve tissue. The extract of H. erinaceus promoted normal development of cultivated cerebella cells and demonstrated a regulatory effect on the process of myelin genesis process in vitro.

- A.A. Bogomoletz Institute of Physiology, National Academy of Sciences, Kiev. Lion's Mane may be a useful complementary treatment for conditions of the nervous system where myelin sheaths around the nerve cells have been damaged, such as in the disease multiple sclerosis.

In a study published in "Fiziolochichnyi Zhurnel" in 2003, researchers from the National Academy of Sciences in Kiev tested extracts of Lion's Mane on tissues from the cerebellum in vitro.

Lion's Mane showed no toxicity and had a beneficial effect on the growth of myelin, regulating and stimulating the myelination process at a significantly faster rate. While more clinical research is required to confirm these results in human subjects

Lion's Mane may play an important role in the future management of nervous system diseases such as multiple sclerosis.

Lion’s Mane and Cognitive Function

In a study published in "Phytotherapy Research" in 2009, researchers from the Mushroom Laboratory in Japan wanted to test the effects of Lion's Mane in human subjects with mild cognitive impairment.

Lion's Mane significantly increased cognitive function during the study, and the effects of the mushroom lasted up to four weeks after cessation of its use. Researchers concluded that Lion's Mane was an effective complementary treatment for mild cognitive impairment, and should be used regularly for reliable and ongoing benefit.

From Leading Scientist and Researcher…

"Lion's Mane mushroom mycelium is nature's nutrients for your neurons." - Paul Stamets, one of the world's leading mycologists and author of several reference works on medical mushrooms.

Dr. Weil Says : Lion’s Mane provides Nerve Growth Factors and Strengthens the Myelin Sheath. These contribute to the treatment and possible cure of many Nerve and Neurological Disorders.

Dr. Markho Rafael : Out of the kitchen, into the pharmacy, the gourmet mushroom Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus) with its unique flavour resembling lobster or shrimp appears to also possess likewise unique medicinal properties. It has been found to stimulate nerve and myelin regeneration, which may be beneficial in many neurological conditions. World renowned medicinal mushroom expert Paul Stamets suggests its potential application in conditions such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, multiple sclerosis and muscular dystrophy.

In the wild, Lion’s Mane Mushroom (Hericium erinaceus) grows on hardwood trees, especially oak, sycamore, maple, walnut and beech. It can be found throughout the temperate areas of the world, from North America and Europe to Japan and China.

“Erinacines” is the name of the medicinal compounds from Hericium erinaceus that are being researched for their neurological health benefits. They are small enough to pass through the blood brain barrier, which or course is a requirement in order to effect any healing on the myelin sheaths or neurons.

In Japan, there are two patents on extracts of Hericium erinaceus. The first was filed in the 1990’s for a process of extraction that yields what has been named “Nerve Growth Stimulant Factor.” The second from 2004 is for a water extract of Hericium erinaceus. It is likewise used to stimulate nerve regeneration.

Although recent research on Hericium erinaceus extract has focused on its powerful effect on healing nerve tissue, in Traditional Chinese Medicine Lion’s Mane Mushroom was used primarily for stomach conditions and cancers of the digestive organs.

Two modern studies have confirmed this ancient wisdom. One done in 1985 showed positive results for treating atrophic gastritis. Another conducted a decade later, in 1995, showed some ameliorating effect on hepatoma, with a marked life extension of treated patients.

Finally, a few additional areas where modern research has reported benefits from the use of Hericium erinaceus extract include: Anti-tumoral; stomach cancer; inflammation; immune support; antimicrobial against Aspergillus and Candida.